Luck or Variance?

March 29, 2007


We had a post in the forum recently asking how often should you cash playing sit and go tournaments. The optimists out there would probably say either every time or maybe nine out of ten times you should be cashing. But is this a question that you can answer? Of course not! In reality, there are many deciding factors to whether you win (or cash) at a game of poker. Some of these being, quality of the cards dealt (and I don’t mean are they plastic cards or paper etc.. 🙂 ) the quality of player you are up against; how good a player you are and so on.

One major factor that everyone will go on about though is how LUCKY they are at the table, or UNLUCKY as the case may be. But is luck a major factor in poker?

It is a well known and well written fact that the better poker players will win more than they will lose. They have an edge over most of the people they play. They have honed their skills at the table and are focused in what they do. They can pick up the slightest of tells; they can sense danger and can fold what we mere mortals would probably consider ‘all-in’ hands; they know how to get information and how to use it. But at the end of the day, they can still lose to a complete novice, even when playing their usual game. Is this just that luck was not on their side, or was it a factor of variance? Pretty much both to be honest!


Here are the dictionary meanings of the two words (in the context we are looking at).

lucknoun – the force that seems to operate for good or ill in a person’s life, as in shaping circumstances, events, or opportunities; A combination of circumstances, events, etc., operating by chance to bring good or ill to a person

variance – noun – the state, quality, or fact of being variable, divergent, different, or anomalous; An instance of varying; difference; discrepancy.

Luck in poker basically means that you have a force with you that will decide whether you win or not. You take your chances and see how it goes!

Variance in poker is different concept. It does not mean the same as luck. People like to get lucky, we all know that. But poker players know that the laws of probability dictate that you cannot be ‘lucky’ all the time. You have to get ‘unlucky’ at some point. But to the seasoned poker player, they know that they will win more than they will lose. Why? Because they have an advantage! They have the Skill factor.  They know that in any given (short) period of time they can go on a losing streak. They know they can’t win every game, or cash in every game they play. But in the long term, of say over a year, their skill factor will dictate that on average (for the year) they will win (or cash) more than bust out.

The players who think themselves as ‘lucky’ at the table will normally be quite loose players who catch flops or make rediculous calls and suckout a lot of the time. They like to gamble without weighing up the information in front of them. Playing like this will virtually guarentee a loss by the years’ end. The better players will play more solid poker, take the beats and suckouts and just get on with it in the knowledge that they will be in overall profit by the years’ end.

I’ll take an example that was featured in the April edition of the UK Pokerplayer Magazine to explain variance, and how solid players know they will be profitable.

luckySay you have a standard 6 faced die. Instead of the numbers (dots) 1 thru 6, three of the sides are blue and the other three are red. Over the course of 10 spins how many times will red come up, considering you have a 50-50 chance of hitting? You would think it should maybe be 5 times it would hit but that would be a very rare occourance. Normally, over 10 spins one colour would win more often than the other.

However, if you asked the same question but over one million spins, then you would see practically a 50-50 split between colours. No colour has an edge or advantage over the other.

diceNow if we had another die, but this time FOUR sides are red and TWO are blue. You bet $1 per spin. how many times would you expect red come up over the course of 10 spins? Again, you cannot tell! It could easily be blue every time!

But the difference here is that over the course of one milliion spins, red will dominate blue by around 2-1. Red has the advantage – or edge – over blue as obviously there are twice as many red sides than blue!

Transfer this to the poker table. The skillful player is the die with 4 red sides – they have an edge (skill). The poorer player is the 2 blue sides (relies more on luck). Over the course of ten games, the poor player could win more than expected. He could get ‘lucky’ and win every game. But over the course of a year and many hundreds of games, the skillful players’ “edge” comes into play. He will win more often than he will lose over the long term.

Variance dictates that you cannot win every time you play. There are so many factors at work – luck being one of them! But in the long term you will win more than you lose.

So back to the original question. Is luck a major factor when trying to work out how many sit and gos you should be winning or cashing? NO, it isn’t a factor over the course of say, a year’s worth of games. If you are a good player, you will have an edge over your opponents and will beat them more than lose to them – but only over the long term. Variance dictates that you have to lose at some point, but that edge you have will prove to be profitable in the long term.


The beginners guide to building a Bankroll

March 26, 2007


Following on form the Chris Ferguson post last week, I thought I’d give a beginners guide to building a bankroll. Some things in this post have been described before, but it’s always useful to see it again as your bankroll is one of the most important things you should be thinking about in poker.

Anyone who plays poker should know the importance of building a bankroll. Novices who play at the play money tables and are just learning the game (and quite possibly becoming hooked!) might not have even heard of a bankroll. Inevitably though, these novices will start to deposit money in poker sites and make a catalogue of mistakes, which will see that money disappear before they know it. Building a bankroll and managing it are important if you want to make some extra cash.

For novices who are just starting out in the game, and have yet to deposit cash into a site, the best way to start out is to play FREEROLLS. A freeroll is a poker tournament that costs nothing to enter, but pays out cash prizes. The prize pool can range from $5 to $5000 depending on the site.

Now these tournaments normally have what I call “bingo players” or “monkeys”. These players will play almost any two cards at any time – even going all-in – just in the hope to double up their chips. It cost them nothing to enter so they loose nothing if they go out. More experienced players hate these freerolls because of the insanely wild actions that take place in them. Don’t be tempted to copy the monkey play. Stick to playing good starting hands. You have to give yourself a good grounding in poker before you hit the higher levels and better players.

Now, that last paragraph might put you off playing these freerolls, but trust me, it is the only way to start off your bankroll if you cannot deposit into a site, for whatever reason. If you play steady, patient poker, there’s a good chance you could make the payout positions. Patience is the key, and trust me, you will need bucketfuls playing these games.

Watch the table and assess each of the players there. Note down if they are wild or tight players. Use this information to your advantage when you happen to hold a monster hand. If you manage to get to the payout positions, that’s your bankroll started.  Keep on playing these freerolls and try and build up that bankroll.

Once you’ve managed to get a few dollars in your account, you can start to buy in to games. Personally, I find the quickest way to make money is by playing sit and go tournaments. The tournaments have buy-ins from $1 upwards and are normally a single table with either 6 or 9 players. You can get sit and gos with multiple tables also, but for the novice stick to a single table in the short term.

You should be playing no more than 5% of your bankroll in sit and go’s. So for example, if you have built your bankroll to $50 you should only be playing games up to the value of $2.50 buy-in. If you decide to play multi table tournaments the you should only risk 2%. Keeping within these restrictions will make sure that your bankroll will last.

When playing a game that costs money to enter, the quality of play at the table increases. For low buy-in games you will still find a lot of poor play but when you start to get to $10 sit and gos you will find more and more good players and a much tougher game.

So, for the novices, stick to a single table with a buy-in of $1-$2. The top 3 finishers usually get paid in a 9 seat table with the money split 50%/30%/20%. And that’s what you are aiming for…. making the money positions. Profit is profit, no matter if it’s only 50c or $50. It all adds up at the end of the day.

The more money you make, the more you will want to move up the buy-in levels. It’s only natural to think that since you are beating, for talking sake, $2 sit and gos, on a regular basis, that you should be playing the $5 games instead. The higher the buy-in the higher the payouts, or in layman’s terms, you can make more money!

However, sometimes it’s not just as simple as that. As I pointed out earlier, the higher the buy-in the better the quality of player you will face. So be prepared to face a stiffer test in trying to reach those payout positions.

If you do move up to the next buy-in level and find you can’t quite compete, then go back down to the level you are comfortable with. There’s no shame in moving back down. In fact it is the sensible thing to do. If you don’t then you could find your hard earned bankroll diminishing very quickly, or possibly gone altogether. Don’t let your ego take over in these situations. If you are struggling at the higher levels, don’t hesitate to move back down.

You should NEVER chase lost money. By this I mean (and have seen it done so many times – even I have done it!) if you have lost a couple of sit and gos, DO NOT jump levels in the hope of getting it back. You will not be focused on the game at hand. You will be focused on recouping your losses. Ask anyone who has done it (and not just at the poker table…fruit machines, horse racing etc…) and they will tell you the same. Your brain is clouded with the thought that if you place a little more money than usual, you can recoup your losses. You forget that playing higher limits means playing better players than you are used to. It’s a fanciful thought and is a sure fire way to go broke.

If you would like to know more about this topic, just leave a comment and I’ll try to reply. Failing that, you can get loads of help with this and other subjects at our league forum.

Once again, comments are always welcome.


March 25, 2007


God this game hates me! Tonight I joined in a sit and go at Full Tilt with Lippy and the Dog. Yes, I know…. three of us shouldn’t play at the same sit and go, but what the hell!

THREE times during the game I suffered huge suckouts! And two of those times was runner, runner suckouts. The other was a river suckout. One guy who sucked out twice was not that bad a player,  but he definately had a horseshoe stuck up his ass, thats for sure. He went on to win the game more through pure suckout luck than skill in the end. Lippy, the Dog and myself were commenting on his play and being quite complimentary, but at the end of the day luck won him that game.

Even his last hand he was underdog and ended up hitting 2 pair on the river.

Oh well, another ‘kicked in the nuts’ experience to lock away – 3 times over!

Last Nights Poker…

March 24, 2007


I played in our private forum game last night and was determined to cash in the game. Well, it wasn’t to be as I went out in 9th place, my AJ offsuit bombing to pocket 9’s. I had started off quite well, but dropped a big pot to drop to shortstack. After this, any time I caught a hand I couldn’t get paid off. Everyone was playing so tight, you couldn’t squeeze a credit card between the cheeks of their butts!

Along with all of that, I had to nip out in the middle of the game. Nothing worse than having to interupt your game.

So, I decided to play a cash game at, and was doing OK there when my virus scanner picked up a virus. All hell broke loose, and I eventually had to do a system restore. This helped and I went onto skype and found the Dog looking for a game. So, the virus went on the backburner as poker seemed so much important!

Our first game was a $2 sit and go at Full Tilt. I started off great and was a massive chip leader. But as has been happening to me constantly recently, suckouts and pure bad luck seen my chips disintegrate and I ended up out on the bubble. But the Dog played some great stuff and took down the win.

The 2nd game was the same buy-in, and within the first few hands, both the Dog and myself had doubled up and taken players out. We were buzzing and had taken good control of the table. But one player who had been quiet (we had our eye on him!) started taking down pots and eventually nabbed the lead. He went on to win the game with me bagging 2nd and the Dog 3rd.

So, I came out almost even after the two games with the Dog making some profit. But just the way things had panned out made me realise that I have to get a grip of my end game. Too many times over the last few months I’ve been chipleader in the latter stages of tourneys and s&g’s, only to crumble. Yes, sometimes its been pure bad luck, but I know within myself that it’s not always the luck thing that’s caused me to crumble. I NEED to work out what it is. And this is where you, my readers come in.

I know that there are several forum members who read this, so I would like to know what your thoughts are in where I’m going wrong. I know of a few things, but it would be good to see what you think. And don’t be afraid to be critical. I can take the good with the bad. As I see it, and I’ve said it often enough, the best way to improve your game is to analyse it yourself, but more importantly to let OTHERS analyse it. The people you play with will pick up a hell of a lot more about your game than you will yourself.

So, come on folks. Let me know where you think I could be going wrong.

PS.. I seem to have the virus situation under control, but some of you could still be getting a little call about it!

Ready to vomit

March 23, 2007


A quick post about the Pokerchipsquad private game at PKR last night. I was playing great all the way through the tourny and before we knew it we were down to four players. I was chip leader by about 3000 from KBvital with CrazyYorkie and Blagger. We played a good few hands with chips swapping everywhere. Blagz managed a massive suckout after going over the top of my raise with A3 suited. I had AJ suited. He caught a 3 on the river to take it down. I didn’t bother me too much as it didn’t dent my stack too much.

Further into the game I caught pocket 9’s on the button. Cue a raise from me. I was re-raised by KBvital, so I flat called. The flop came out low cards so I pushed all-in (I had put him on AK). He turns over pocket Aces and catches another Ace on the turn. So from chipleader I go to shortstack.

The very next hand I’m involved in (2 hands from the 99 v AA) and me on the BB I pick up KQ – an all-in hand every time when you’re shortstacked. KBvital calls and turns over pocket Aces again!!! Unbelievable! Needless to say the Aces held up and I went out as bubbleboy. Chipleader to bubbleboy in two hands against the same player holding AA each hand – gutted!

This game can be so cruel at times and last night was a bit of a ‘nut-crusher’. I Left PKR stunned.

In retrospect, If I had thought about it a bit longer I could have maybe got away from the first hand, but you just don’t expect it twice in a row with the same player. I’m not knocking KBvital by the way…. he’s got to play the hands he gets.

I just wish the poker gods would give me a break though. It seems to be the same in every game I play lately – play brilliantly for the most part only to have the carpet swept from under my feet in the latter stages.

Hey-ho…. I just have to put it out of my mind. I can’t dwell on it (although I’m sure I’ll be bitchin about it tonight in the chatroom 🙂 ) It’s another day, and another lesson learned, so upwards and onwards to tonights private game at Absolute. I will make the payout positions tonight, and its not just a feeling. Its a determination that has been lacking lately. But its back now folks, so watch out…. I’m comin to get ya!

And so we continue…..

March 22, 2007

Well, after the announcement that the Pokerchipsquad LEAGUE has finished, we’re more than less getting back into the groove. The announcement confused a lot of people to begin with, but hopefully everyone knows the situation now. Here is a quick rundown……

  • Only the poker league is closing down – not the forum.
  • There will still be private games for the members, the sites being Absolute, Vegas Poker, 3d Poker for all members including US players, and PKR for all players except the US.
  • The Pokerchipsquad forum does remain as the central meeting and information point. Details of the private games and up to the minute news will be posted there.
  • The live chat facility at Paltalk also remains. Details on how to access this are in the forum.

So, hopefully this will clear up some of the confusion surrounding the recent events.

As for me, I have another article almost ready to publish here at Grins and Groans. I should have it ready for the weekend, so keep an eye out for it.

Also, if you haven’t done so already, take a look at the other blogs I’ve linked to. All mainly concern poker and are well worth the reading. Oh, and don’t be shy! All the bloggers will fully welcome comments and critique – good or bad. We are all striving to be better players so if you have an alternative view of what we post, don’t be afraid to tell us.

Here are the other blogs to check out….

Poker Playground  – Blaggers poker musings. Blagz was the first to have a regular blog. He actually got me into starting mine back up!

Poker Globe – Rich’s Blog. Rich is also the owner of the Pokerchipsquad Forum.

Netty Boop – The only female in the forum blogging thus far, Netty just started her blog a week ago and just can’t stop blogging now!

Poker and Me – The newest blog in our little family, Dave (AKA Svcmgr) has started off strong, and only seems to be getting stronger. Another great addition for us bloggers!

So there you go! Go check them out, and please remember… all comments are welcome at all the blogs!

The Pokerchipsquad League

March 19, 2007


As no doubt you are aware, I am a member of the Pokerchipsquad forum. I have been a member here for several years now and there has been some big changes since I joined. Let me give you a brief history…..

When I first joined, the forum was called Pokercards Forum. Online poker was still really in its infancy. Chris Moneymaker had still to win the WSOP main event, so the poker boom had still to take place. We played mainly freeroll games, but there was never the number of players entering as there is now. And the majority of people actually tried to PLAY proper poker and win the games – very few monkeys around! We also had some private games set up and were attracting reasonable numbers.

As time went on, all the league players started to play better and it was only a matter of time before we went that bit further and started playing more buy-in games. We had more private buy-in games and still we were getting the numbers.

Eventually, a few of us decided to run our own forums, but all were part of, and were indeed a major part of the Pokercards family. This led to each forum setting up their own private games that all of the Pokercards family could participate in. It also meant that there was at least one private game a day. This meant that people could pick and choose which games they wanted to play. But the big downside was that they had to go through each forum each day to see what the games were. People would rather have all the games listed in one place – makes sense!

I loved running my forum, but realised that it just wasn’t working out. All the sub-forums amalgamated together again under the Pokercards moniker to make it the one family again. All the private games we set up could then be found in the one place.

But slowly, less and less people played the private games, especially once the TFCL (The Forum Challenge League – which the Pokercards forum had an integral part in setting up, although has now been taken over by new management) came along, it got even worse. People would play TFCL games before private league games. They would rather play in a $100 freeroll with 350 players than a $2 buy-in game, where if 50 players entered the prize pool would have been the same. They would have a much better chance to win with less players playing.  Go figure! After a disasterous time with the TFCL the league disassociated itself with it. But still, people would rather play their games.

Moving onwards, we all realised that times were getting tough for us. We tried a lot of different ideas to get people playing again, but sadly, most of it fell on deaf ears. Numbers kept on dwindling. The only time we got a massive turnout was when a freeroll was announced. We would be inundated with requests for passwords to the freerolls. But when it went to buy-ins, all these freeloaders disappeared into the darkness again.

Then the UIGEA bill was passed in the USA.

The Ulawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act came into effect in October 2006. This in itself did not ban people from playing online poker, but did ban them from transfering money to and from online gaming sites. It didn’t take long before the US cracked down on E-wallet sites, and before we knew it, it had hit Neteller – the biggest E-wallet site – who then withdrew from the US market. The problem with this was that many US players had funds in their Neteller account and these assets have been frozen. There is no way for them to get access to their own money!

Cue another drop in players in the private games. It niggles a bit though, to know that there are other ways to deposit/withdraw to internet gaming sites but US players won’t use them. But, I had to ask myself if I would use them if I were in their position. The answer would probably be NO! Who’s to say what e-wallet site would be next to be hit by this legislation, meaning the possibility of losing even more cash!

So now, to the present. Last night, Rich, the forum owner decided enough was enough. He was sick and tired of spending hours setting up private games when less than 20 people turned up to play. He has now scrapped the private games!

I, and many others had seen it coming months ago. We had discussed it and decided it be best to hang on as it could just be a little blip and the players would start playing again. We were just kidding ourselves on really. Each of us in our heart of hearts knew it wasn’t going to get any better, and even more so once the US implemented the UIGEA.

So now, it begs the question….. How do we stop the rot? How can we as a forum recover and get more people back participating in the forum? We do still have a few private games set up by the Aces’n’Faces gang, Poker Ladies and Dallas Poker leagues, but we don’t know for how long.

I know Rich has stuff in the pipeline, but also know that if we don’t get the support we need then he might just call it quits altogether. A forum is a community, and as such should act like a community. We’ve all heard of ‘community spirit’. Sadly, the forum has been lacking it enormously of late. We should all take a bit of responsibilty if we want to keep our forum going. I for one don’t want to see it close down. I just hope everyone else sees it like that and does their best to keep it up and running.

How do you do this? Quite simple! Pop into the forum and see whats going on. Reply to posts that have been put in. If there’s not much going on, then start a post of your own. I’m sure everyone will have something they would like to see discussed. If you can, participate in any of the games that have been set up. No-one is looking for you to play every game – it’s just not possible for most people, me included. Get involved in our chatroom in paltalk. You can chat live with other league members and its free to download!

There are hundreds of poker forums out there, but I’ve still to come across one that matches up to the Pokerchipsquad in terms of quality of members, quality of play and above all quality of integrity. We have rules we stick to religeously and are known as quite a strict forum. But these rules are very basic and you really must be either stupid or just downright ignorant if you can’t follow them. That’s why we have the quality members we have – because they can be trusted!

So come along and have a look and see what you think. If you like it, then tell your friends to come along. Everyone will be made welcome. The more people we have participating, the more our ‘community’ can recover. In a nutshell, we need our existing members to participate more and bring in new members.

As always, I would love to see comments on this, and I especially urge our forum members to leave their comments.